On Friday, December 16th the staff of the MDABC were pleased to host our annual Holiday Volunteer Appreciation Party at the Counselling and Wellness Centre in Vancouver. This was a chance for the staff of the MDABC to show how truly grateful we are for all of the time, enthusiasm and dedication shown by the volunteers throughout the year.
The MDABC wouldn’t exist without our wonderful volunteers who generously give their time to facilitate support groups, greet patients in our psychiatric clinic, do community outreach, educate the public about mental health, write newsletter articles, and much more! Just thinking about how many lives have been positively impacted by our volunteers is amazing.
Guests at the party were treated to a buffet of holiday treats and a craft room full of art supplies with which to get creative. We then did a Christmas Trivia Quiz (click here to download our quiz) and the winners picked out prizes from beneath the tree. A couple of speeches from our Executive Director Martin Addison and our Operations Manager Catherine St.Denis rounded out the afternoon.
It was great to see everyone come to together at this event, and the MDABC would like to wish all of our volunteers, clients, members, patients, and friends a lovely holiday season!
When we want someone that we care about to make changes in their life, we often gravitate to telling them what we think they should do. It can be especially frustrating when we tell someone to get help for a mental health issue or to take better care of themselves but they just refuse! However, if you think about it, does anyone actually like being told what to do? Do you? Even children don’t like it. Telling others what to do sometimes makes people want to dig their heels in and do nothing or even do the opposite of what they’ve been told.
An alternative approach to just telling someone what to do is to guide them in the direction of positive change. The idea here is to help the other person come up with their own solution to the problem. Ok, fine, you say, but how exactly do I do that?
One way is to make suggestions or share information by using “wiggle words”. For example, instead of saying “here’s what you should do”, you could say:
Maybe, you could consider…
I have found it helpful to ….
What are your thoughts about…?
Another option is…
Here’s an idea…what do you think?
These phrases don’t assume that we know exactly what the person that we care about should do, how they should do it, or when they should do it. The “wiggle” words send the message to the person that they have choices, that you respect them, and that the decision about if, when and how to change is theirs alone. This can be very empowering and can help people to start thinking about the changes that they are ready to make without feeling that they are being forced. Even if the person that you care about isn’t ready to consider making a change or getting help, you will at least know that they have been made aware of some options. If they are just saying no to all options you suggest, you could ask them if they have any ideas to improve the situation, or you could offer to explore the reasons for their resistance with them. For example, you could say something along the lines of:
I’m hearing that you aren’t interested in seeing a doctor/counsellor but can you tell me why you think this would be negative for you?
I get it that you don’t want to talk to me about what’s going on, so can you think of someone who you would be more comfortable talking to?
What if the person in question still refuses to make any change? Being a caregiver to someone who is struggling emotionally can be very draining and can lead to feeling burnt out and depleted. At this point, it is important to remember to take good care of yourself, to get support and to let the person know that you expect them to respect your boundaries.
For the past few months, the staff at the MDABC (in partnership with BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions) have been working on a new mental health awareness campaign aimed at young adults. For this very exciting new project, we began by doing research on other successful mental health campaigns and by talking to young people directly by holding a focus group. We wanted to design a campaign that young adults would pay attention to and that would ultimately get them engaged in talking about and being invested in positive mental health. Getting feedback from young adults about what they really wanted was an essential (and illuminating) part of the research process!
Based on all the information and opinions that we gathered, we got creative designing the actual campaign. We decided to go with a campaign that asked the question “Do you know what to say to a friend with low mood or depression?” and we named the campaign “What Helps, What Hurts.” We decided to go this route because our research told us that young adults were a lot more comfortable talking about a friend’s mental health than their own. We found that, unfortunately, stigma is still alive and well in our community and that many young adults are not ready to let anyone know that they are experiencing a mental health issue. That discomfort does not necessarily extend to talking about a friend’s mental health, and our research shows that most young people want to help and support their friends but often lack the know-how about what to say, how to talk about it, and what to do when a friend is really in crisis.
The What Helps, What Hurts campaign will reach out to young people in a variety of ways including posters on transit, a website, a hashtag, and a pocket guide which MDABC volunteers will distribute at events and on the streets. Our official campaign launch will be in early October 2016, more details to come!
If you are interested in getting involved in this campaign doing street outreach or writing a personal story for the website, please get in touch with Polly at email@example.com
As the start of the school year approaches, some kids are getting excited and impatient while others may be experiencing nervousness and anxiety. Whether the kids that you care for are dealing with restlessness or anxiety or both, learning how to calm down and ground themselves is a great coping skill to learn early on in life. This simple mindfulness activity can be learned in just a few minutes and practiced just about anywhere. It is great for kids because it is easy to remember and involves being active. Adults who practice rainbow walking will reap the benefits of mindfulness too!
How to do a Rainbow Walk:
The first thing to do when preparing for a rainbow walk is to review the colors of the rainbow with the child. If you have a prism, it’s great to show off how you can create rainbows right in your home (honestly, I spent hours and hours doing this as a child).
Now, head outside and simply start walking and looking for something in each color of the rainbow. You and your young companion will begin to tune into your surroundings and start noticing things that you would usually have just walked right by. You may see the raspberry pink reflection of a flower in a puddle or a bold cobalt blue streak of the sky. You may begin to wonder how you’ve missed all of these things for so long and why your mind has been so preoccupied with thoughts that you haven’t paid attention to all the beauty around you! Once you have found something in each color, you can just start over again.
As you finish your rainbow walk, you can remind your walking companion that they can practice mindfulness any time and that it is always available to them if they feel nervous, worried or overwhelmed. If they are at school and they can’t go out walking, they can do a rainbow sitting activity and just look around the space that they are in finding something in each color of the rainbow.
Mindfulness activities and practice serve to quiet the constant chatter in our minds that prevents us from being truly present. When those thoughts of the past and the future are racing through our minds, anxiety and worry can take over. Mindfulness can help us to connect with the present moment and put our fears and worries aside.
For more information on how to help a child who is experiencing back-to-school anxiety, check out this very helpful page at at AnxietyBC.
There are just so many activities that we can engage in the summer time that are great for our minds and bodies, but here are three that really are at the top of the list in terms of benefits:
You probably already know that aerobic exercise is good for your mental health, but did you know that swimming seems to be one of the most beneficial options?
Not only does swimming release endorphins, it also encourages the growth of new brain cells according to an article in the Huffington Post . Additionally, an Australian study found that there’s a connection between warm water immersion and increased blood flow. More blood flow means more nutrients for the brain which means a better functioning mind.
And finally, swimming also has a lot of the same benefits as yoga. They both involve the coordination of breath and movement which can release mental, emotional and physical stress. The repetitive movement and mind-body connectivity can help put you into a state of deep relaxation just as yoga can.
Summer is a great time to take a vacation if you are able to do so. It is awesome to have the opportunity to get away from your normal surroundings and take in some new scenery. During a vacation, we have the potential to break away from the stress cycle that we may find ourselves in. We can come back from a successful vacation feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world again and face our challenges.
British researcher Scott McCabe noted that vacations can also provide new experiences which lead to a “broadening of horizons and the opportunity for learning and intercultural communication.” This is the experience of getting a little bit of distance from your normal day-to-day life and being able to see things in a new light and perhaps develop insight into the human condition. We can also strength bonds with the people in our life when we vacation together.
The sun is finally shining and somehow it seems to put a smile on our faces in the way that a rainy dark day just doesn’t. We all know that too much sun can be harmful to our skin but the right balance can do a lot to boost our mood.
Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a feel-good hormone called serotonin. This is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. Sounds pretty good, right?
Of course, prolonged direct exposure to sunlight is not advisable. So make sure that you wear a good sunscreen or stay in the shade when you’re out in the sun.
Are you thinking about starting counselling? Or are you considering counselling as a career path? Would you like to know a little bit more about how and why the counsellors at the MDABC chose this particular occupation? To get some insight into this question, we asked the Counsellors at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC,
“How did you decide to become a Professional Counsellor?”
Here are some enlightening replies from Rose Record, Sarah Barker, and Steve Ching:
I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to go into a helping field, I think it was in my grade 8 career planning course where I first identified that counselling was something that I wanted to do as a career. My curiosity stemmed not only from my interest in psychology and mental health, but also in seeing and experiencing the profound impact that support can have on the well-being of both myself and the people closest to me in my life. However, I didn’t always work as a counsellor. In fact, I actually worked in hospitality and in business before making a career shift and finding my professional “home” in counselling. A really critical part of that journey were the years I spent volunteering on crisis lines, which demonstrated the power of being there for someone in the moment and offering non-judgmental and empathic support to help navigate the stressors and struggles that come up in life. It made me realize the passion I have for supporting others in their mental wellness journeys. And, it’s been inspiring and honoring now working in an occupation that allows the opportunity to do so, I truly couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
I grew up in a household with two parents who worked in health care (a nurse and a psychologist). As such, the helping professions have always been of natural interest to me, and as a youth I often found myself drawn to the stories and challenging experiences of the people in my life. Further, having experienced a level of anxiety and uncertainty as a child who moved often, I felt that I was particularly well-equipped to empathize with others who experienced similar emotional struggles. After I completed my psychology degree, I was torn between counselling and law. I worked part-time for a law firm and realized that I was most interested in the experiences of the clients, and this confirmed what I had already suspected- counselling was a much better fit for my personality, and gave me a much deeper sense of contribution. It did not take long for me to enroll in graduate school after that, and the longer I work as a therapist the more certain I am that this is what I am meant to be doing.
“I feel that counselling came to me as an interest and as a calling. Growing up, I had never considered counselling as a profession. It became an interest through other therapists who I’ve spent time with. I learned from them how profoundly impactful it can be to simply BE with someone, to connect deeply with others on a personal and meaningful level. I think that it’s a calling too. I feel so humbled, honored, and so alive to be able to share with others a part of their life journey. In a way, I feel that this is from beyond me – that this call is both a gift and a grace.”
Reading for pleasure could be just about the most relaxing activity around! According to research studies , reading for just six minutes has been shown to reduce stress by 68 percent. It works better to calm down your stressed nervous system than listening to music, going for a walk, or having a cup of tea.
This is great news for people who love to read, and it may encourage those who haven’t picked up a book in a while to hit the bookstore or the library to find something that piques their interest. Dr. Lewis, who conducted the research studies explained how reading relaxes the mind and body,
“It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination. This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”
And besides the amazing calming power of reading, there are a ton of other benefits to being a reader such as improved brain health, vocabulary, and communication skills, just to name a few. Reading can also help us to develop empathy because when we learn about other people’s viewpoints and experiences, it is easier for us to understand how people are more alike than different.
The next time you are feeling stressed, try settling down with a good book and notice how your heart beat slows down, your shoulders relax, and your breathing deepens. And then just let go and let your mind travel to wherever the story takes you.
British cartoonist, writer and illustrator Gemma Correll, who now lives in California created a series of comics as a way to explain and cope with her own struggles with mental health concerns. She states,
‘I suffer from clinical anxiety and depression and I find that the best way to deal with it is to find humour in it.’
She hopes by injecting a little humour into her illustrations, she’ll break down some of the stigma and encourage others to be more open about what they’re going through.
Toby Allen is a UK-based illustrator who created a series of drawings of mental health disorders and conditions depicted as monsters. The Real Monsters series is a collection of 16 illustrations that deal with everything from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sylvie Reuter, a German cartoonist used her artistic skills to create a visual representation of depression. She was able to effectively communicate what depression can feel like without using any words. In an interview about her work, Sophie stated,
“Mental health is still something that is stigmatized and rarely talked about in public. But online it’s different, you can share your thoughts and you can do it anonymously and that way it’s easier for people.”
4. Marissa Betley
After seeing firsthand how mental illness can take a toll, Marissa Betley decided to use art to express how it truly feels to struggle with a mental health disorder.
The artist posted one illustration a day about the impact of mental health issues for 100 days on Instagram. Melissa called this series Project 1 in 4 because that is how many people will experience a serious mental health concern in their lifetime. Check out her work at project1in4.com
Robot Hugs is a Toronto-based illustrator whose art is concerned with mental health, feminism, and gender politics. RH sees the accessibility of online comics and art as integral to it’s popularity. RH states,
“There’s a lot of writing out there about mental illness and how to support someone but it can be hard to ask someone to go to the labour of reading a lot of text. Everyone’s got 10 seconds to look at a comic.
It may start with a sharp lump in your throat, followed by a little wobble of your chin. Next your eyes are feeling moist and you’re blinking hard in an effort to hold back the tears. But your effort to not cry makes your chin wobble even more, and the next thing you know the tears are flowing, the lump in your throat is melting, and your nose is running. You are now in full sob mode. You grab the box of Kleenex and succumb to the weeping.
When was the last time you had a good cry? If you are not in a chronically depressed mood, crying once in a while can be very cathartic and healing so it’s actually better for your health to allow yourself to cry.
Are you sometimes in the mood to watch a sad movie or listen to some sad music? Do you wonder why you are seeking out opportunities to feel sad? Movies and music can help us get in touch with the sadness within ourselves, allow ourselves to feel it, and then let some of that sadness go. The calm after the storm can then set in, and we often feel that the sadness is diminished and that there is now room in our minds and bodies for happier emotions.
Neuroscientist and tear researcher Dr. William H. Frey IIhas spent over 15 years studying crying and tears. Some interesting facts about crying that his research uncovered are:
85% of women and 73% of men felt less sad and angry after crying.
On average, women cry 47 times a year, men cry 7 times a year. (WOW!)
Crying bouts last 6 minutes on average.
Crying has been found to lower blood pressure and pulse rate immediately following therapy sessions during which patients cried and raged.
To make the most of a good cry and really reap the benefits, it is important to remember that you have to be kind and compassionate with yourself after the crying jag. If you beat yourself up about crying, feel guilty, or use negative self-talk and tell yourself things like “I’m such a loser for crying” or “Guys shouldn’t cry”, you will undo all the healing that your sobfest can bring you.
So, go ahead and cry it out. And then you can proudly say to yourself “Well done! That was a good cry and I feel a lot better now!”